Archive for the ‘People/HR’ Category

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

Employee Engagement Matters – Flashback Friday

“Paychecks can’t buy passion.” – Brad Federman

To drive engagement, it’s simple, you have to be proactive.

Read this blog post from 2017 to learn about your three types of employees.

  • I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.
  • Walt Disney

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Adding New Clients – Flashback Friday

“Quality is much better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.” – Steve Jobs

Adding new clients is always a challenge for CPA firms. However, some firms have a marketing machine, visible rainmakers, and obtaining new clients isn’t their biggest issue.

The challenge is being able to provide awesome client service to the rapidly growing client base.

Here’s a flashback post to help you with that challenge.

  • Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all.
  • Sam Ewing

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

Keep People Connected

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer

Once again, Withum shares a great video. This one was shared with their entire team so that they continue to feel very connected to the firm and to each other.

What is your firm doing?

Click here to see the video.

  • As the world becomes a more digital place, we cannot forget about the human connection.
  • Adam Newmann

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

Head of Remote

“The mark of higher education isn’t the knowledge you accumulate in your head. It’s the skills you gain about how to learn.” – Adam Grant

Last year at this time, could you ever visualize needing a person with the title Head of Remote Work?

Darren Murph is Head of Remote for a software firm that has been all remote since 2012. He lives near the Outer Banks in North Carolina and the 700 other employees of the firm are sprinkled around the country. He believes that his title might be the next evolution of the COO (or, in the CPA world, the Practice Manager).

He wears many hats and what he does daily sounds a lot like what a current CPA firm practice manager (firm administrator) does. Other companies are also hiring people who can help the company make the transition to remote work.

What about your firm? For most, it seems, it will become a hybrid model where some work remotely all the time and some work remotely part of the time. It might make sense to have someone devoted to helping and coordinating remote workers so that the firm’s practice manager has more time to focus on the on-site workers and over-all firm initiatives.

It would take somebody with an HR background, strong communication skills and they need to also be highly skilled at technology.

Maybe it is something you should be thinking about. Read the informative article via The Washington Post.

  • Soft skills get little respect, but will make or break your career.
  • Peggy Klaus

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

Stealing Your People

“Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal.” – T. S. Eliot

It’s been going on for decades. There are people who get paid to help you steal people from your competitors.

Most of them are incentivized recruiters who use all types of methods to find experienced accountants who might be dissatisfied with their current employment status.

Recently, I heard a discussion among practice managers (firm administrators), that one firm did not feature their team members on their website because it made it easier for head-hunters to find people to contact and entice them away. Others agreed that it was a good idea.

I do not agree. I believe there are more benefits to featuring your team on your website than dangers. Featuring them is saying that you are proud of them and that they are qualified professionals taking care of your clients. It is also a boost for your administrative team. Your new hires (recent college graduates) are thrilled to be able to tell their relatives and friends that they should check out your website and see their picture.

If you are losing people to recruiters, it is your fault.

  • Maybe your culture isn’t clearly defined and protected.
  • Maybe you have an abusive partner/manager or two.
  • Maybe everyone is not living up to the firm’s published core values.
  • Maybe you aren’t keeping pace with salaries for your different levels of experience.
  • Maybe the communication within your firm is poor. It’s the one I hear the most about!
  • And maybe, as leaders, you simply are not saying, “Thank you for your efforts,” enough.

If you are losing good people, look in the mirror.

  • He who steals a little steals with the same wish as he who steals much, but with less power.
  • Plato

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

Hard Work

“A dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.”  – Colin Powell

As part of the CPAFMA Strategy Leadership & Growth Accelerator Session yesterday, I was asked to talk for just 10  minutes about TALENT. Because I am again speaking today on TALENT, I decided to approach it from a different angle for the Strategy session  If you want to hear more of the nitty-gritty about hiring, interviewing, and retaining employees, please tune in today when I will be part of the Talent & People Accelerator.

We hear Talent talked about so much in the CPA profession. Let’s explore what we really mean by the word “Talent.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, when larger firms were shedding people (mostly poor performers), I anticipated that more qualified people would be in the job market and firms below the Top 100 might attract some people who were experienced and capable.

What I am seeing is that didn’t happen. All of my clients and other firms in my sphere tell me that they are trying (several, almost desperately) to find more people with the skills and desire to work and succeed in public accounting.

Recently, I listened to a Ted talk by Suzanne Lucas @realevilhrlady. She writes and advises on HR topics. The subject of her Ted talk was FORGET TALENT AND GET TO WORK. I agree with her viewpoint on this and feel like it is an issue in the CPA profession. It is only 8 minutes long, you should listen to it.

She talked about Talent and the use of the word in hiring. Sometimes the words we use distort our intentions. We don’t talk about people anymore. We talk about Talent. Look at the titles of many of the webinars you have attended and articles you have read!  We talk about talent management and talent assessment and we moan about talent shortages.

For example, here are some titles of articles in CPA publications:

  • The Accounting Profession: Talents that Matter
  • How to Motivate & Retain Your Talent (JofA)
  • How to Win the Game of Talent (JofA)
  • Where Should You be Looking for Top Talent (AT)
  • I have spoken and written on the topic of Hiring and Retaining Top Talent numerous times!

We seem to think that talent is something you are born with. That a 4.0 GPA means you have talent. In our world, what talent means is you have the above-average ability to master accounting firm work very rapidly.

The definition of the word is: A special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude. b : general intelligence or mental power : ability. 2 : the natural endowments of a person. 

If we believe that music requires talent and that we could never do it – we are wrong. We probably could.

People that made a true impact in the world did it through hard work. Yes, Mozart composed his first piece of music at age 5, and, yes he was talented. Lin-Manuel Miranda says it took him about seven years to write Hamilton. It took him one year alone to write the second song in the show, “My Shot.” He did it through hard work and dedication.

What we really seek are people who are trainable and can develop skills. Skill is something you gain through hard work and dedication.

Could I learn to paint or learn to play the piano? Of course. I don’t have natural talent but I could do it through a lot of hard work.

I never did the hard work to be able to run a marathon – I could have but I preferred ice cream and long leisurely walks.

When we are hiring, we need to ask, “Can this person learn what we have to teach?” Does she have the determination to learn hard things? We all know that fresh college accounting graduates can’t do the work in public accounting right away but do they have the grit to learn? Have they worked hard in the past? Have they failed and then succeeded?

I have heard many, many very successful CPA partners say “I certainly didn’t have a 4.0 GPA.” The average student (not considered top talent) has often become an expert and a very highly-compensated CPA firm partner.

Just about anybody can learn just about anything if they are willing to work hard.

Google asked what makes great employees and perfect grades were not at the top of the list. What was? Listening, critical thinking and problem solving.

It isn’t all about being endowed with natural talent, it is about the hard work of building skills.

CPA firms should be more willing to make significant investments in quality training & development. If more focus was put on training/development you might find that you have more productive and skilled people working at your firm, formerly considered average performers. I still hear horror stories about new hires more or less being thrown to the wolves, so to speak.

Many years ago, I began to talk about team members rather than using the words staff or employees. I thought if we used the word TEAM enough we might actually become one. Why not put more focus on seeking team members who are willing to work hard and develop the skills necessary to be CPA and not stress the word TALENT so much?

I still believe that it takes grit and perseverance to become successful in the public accounting world. Look for people who have demonstrated passion and dedication followed by hard work to build skills. They will succeed.

  • Men die of boredom, psychological conflict and disease. They do not die of hard work.
  • David Ogilvy, advertising business tycoon

Friday, November 6th, 2020

This & That For Friday

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

For this Friday’s flashback post, read about having a commitment statement and how one can be designed to notify your clients of your commitments to them and informing them what commitments you expect from them. Samples are included.

Don’t forget about the CPAFMA Virtual Accelerator Program coming up on Monday and Tuesday. I’ll be involved both days and there are a wide variety of helpful sessions.

Yesterday, I had a great time talking with (via Zoom) with a group of partners from different firms who get together to network and learn from each other a couple of times per year.

I am hearing a lot about hiring from my clients and contacts. Every firm is looking for experienced people – that is nothing new but the demand seems to have increased in urgency as we approach another tax season.

The hybrid model of CPA workforces is gaining strength – Hybrid meaning sometimes in the office and sometimes remotely. It seems to be desired by a growing number of team members. Sometimes it is nice to get away from home and actually work in the office.

Have a calming and enjoyable weekend. Be kind.

  • Reflect upon your present blessings -- of which every man has many -- not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
  • Charles Dickens

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

Attendance Policy

Do you have an attendance policy? I have observed that many CPA firms do not have a clearly defined policy and if they do have one, it is doubtful that they are enforcing it.

You need to have an attendance policy and enforce it, especially with so many employees now working remotely.” – Suzanne Lucas 

Suzanne Lucas, aka Evil HR Lady, gives us reasons why such a policy is important in a recent article.

She gives the example of an employee who called in to say that they had 40 hours in as of Thursday and they were taking Friday off and not counting it as PTO. Lucas’ advice: “Say no. Honestly, it’s that simple.”

Per this HR expert: “You are within your rights as an employer to set an absentee policy that makes sense for your business. You need work done, and that’s why you hire employees. This does not mean that your employees should devote their entire lives to your business, nor does it mean you let them walk all over you. When you’re talking about attendance, you need a good policy.”

I have observed similar situations within accounting firms and it seems to always cause indecisiveness and even confusion about how to handle these situations. In these times of being almost desperate to retain skilled people, CPA leaders are often simply afraid to say “No” to anything.

The article contains a sample attendance policy and a lot of other good information. Read it here.

  • Be kind and flexible, but make sure your employees know they need to work every day.
  • Suzanne Lucas

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

CPA Exam Benefits

“I’m forever testing myself. As a person and as an actor, I have no sense of competition.” – Michael Caine

I often receive inquiries about the benefits package a public accounting firm should offer. My advice? Be generous!

For example, firms approach paying for the CPA Exam and for the pre-exam study course in varying manners. Of course, some firms are more generous than others.

You are a CPA firm. You need CPAs. Communicate this fact to all your new accounting graduates (and others who have not yet passed the Exam).

Here’s an example of an Exam policy:

John Doe & Company CPA Exam Policy

(Name of firm) is first and foremost a CPA firm. The expectation has always been that, as soon as possible, each of us will sit for and pass the CPA exam. Including our college education, it is the completion of the basics and the foundation that each of us need to practice the profession of public accounting.

Effectively immediately, the firm’s policy on passing the exam is as follows:

  1. For new college graduates joining the firm, the expectation is that you will complete the exam by your two year anniversary with the firm.
  2. For the existing team, the expectation is that you will have it completed within two years of today’s date.
  3. As you will see in the firm’s goal-setting process, if you have not passed the exam your number one goal will be to do so. The achievement of this goal will have a significant impact on your compensation.
  4. Although we do not want to focus on the negative, if the exam is not completed within the above time frames it will be a serious impediment to your career with the firm. We will evaluate each situation on an individual basis.   

We are disassociating the passing of the exam to staff levels within the firm. In other words, you no longer have to have the exam passed to be promoted to senior. The level at which you are performing will be the only factor that determines your title.

We are enhancing our benefits related to the CPA exam as follows:

  • We will pay for 100% of Becker, Surgent, or another review course approved by the firm. This will be paid upfront and will be refundable to the firm if you do not complete the review course.
  • We will now pay the 50% reimbursement of exam fees upfront with no maximum.
  • The firm will pay a $1,000 bonus upon certification from the state licensing agency and will also have your certificate professionally framed.

To summarize, passing the exam is your top priority. The firm will do everything that we can to help you and to accommodate the process. We hope that the enhancements above will make a difference. But, you have to take it and pass it. Please give it the importance that it deserves in your career. 

Again, my message to all firms is to be generous.

  • Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it.
  • Jack Canfield

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

Accounting Graduates

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.” – Lawrence Bossidy

There are reports that tell us that the number of accounting graduates being hired is steadily declining. Yet, many firms are still saying that they need people.

In some firms, the “need people” has come to mean they need more non-accounting graduates, such as people with more advanced technology skills.

Per Todd Shapiro, CEO of the Illinois CPA society says, in an article via Accounting today: “Hiring of accounting graduates is down 30 percent. That’s a massive decline in hiring of accounting graduates by CPA firms. This isn’t companies that traditionally haven’t hired accounting graduates that aren’t CPAs. These are accounting firms.”

I was surprised by this statement from Barry Melancon a few years ago: Today we are a profession of CPA-led firms, not CPA firms. Two-thirds of the employees in all firms are non-CPAs.

Shapiro notes that firms are hiring more non-accounting graduates. It only makes sense to me that accounting students need to be sure that they have more advanced technology skills than at any time in the past.

If you didn’t read the article by Michael Cohn (via Accounting Today), you should.

  • You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world…but it requires people to make the dream a reality.
  • Walt Disney